Our story, and how we got here...
From shaping surfboards under Ben Aipa, to moving overseas to Sydney, Australia, LNF Founders Craig Kawamura and Mike Ito talk story about where they came from and where they're going...
In the Spring of 2017, Lost Not Found (LNF) Founders Craig Kawamura and myself (Mike Ito) left our jobs to pursue our passions in surfing, surfboard shaping and surfing photography. We tell our story on why and how we got here and where we want to go.
Long story short, our story starts about 40 years ago, like many others like us, before and beyond, Craig started surfing, and so did I. Once you start, you get hooked. Everyone who surfs knows that and knows why. It's a fascination of catching and riding a wave, to set up for the bottom turn, look for the barrel or lip or curl or whatever you want to call it. When you pull out, you know you had the wave of the day or your life when you can't stop smiling, then you want more. It's a feeling I don't experience with anything else (except for a very few other things). This feeling is the essence of what we based our brand around... good vibes.
Every waking moment was about going surfing. Before school, after school, during school, before work, during work, after work… it becomes an obsession! But as you know, we had to pay the bills and get some kind of job.
Craig started shaping surfboards in 1993. In 1995, Craig worked and was mentored by master surfer/shaper Ben Aipa and his son Akila. He was fortunate to fine tune his shaping and design skills while working with Ben.
One of the most important lessons he learned from Ben was to "embrace the process". "The better you do the first step, the easier the second step will be (and so forth)... no shortcuts!" Ben always told Craig. He always reminded Craig that you had to "work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths."
Craig continued his shaping with Ben for a few years until starting his own personal brand called CK Surfboards. Those years with Ben were some the best years of his shaping career. To this day, he applies the lessons he learned from Ben into his own shaping.
In 1997, Craig graduated from UH Manoa in Zoology but continued to shape surfboards full time.
Then in 2010, Craig stepped back from full time shaping to part time to jump on the renewable energy boom in sales and marketing that was happening in 2007 to about 2016. He continued to shape and surf, but not as much as before.
I grew up during the "Momentum" years, the years Kelly Slater dominated the ASP/WSL from about 1991 to 2011. I would watch "Black and White" and "Momentum I" over and over again the nights before dawn patrolling it the next morning. I remember hitting the "slow-mo" wheel frame by frame studying the way he cut back or bottom turn. But, what intrigued me just as much were the soundtracks on those videos. That's how I got into punk rock.
Pennywise, NOFX, Bad Religion... those bands got me pumped before surfing. We even started a punk band called "Potluck" and I remember playing Saturday night punk shows at "The Ninja House" in town with Generic and Mister Meaner. That time had to have been a major influence in who I am now. Such a fun time and I didn't even know it.
In 1998, I graduated at UH Manoa with a BA in Chemistry. Truth be told, I barely made it. I'm not sure why I went that route, but I did learn a lot. Maybe I liked mixing chemicals in a lab.
In 2000, I moved to Sydney Australia and went back to school in graphic design and marketing and worked in the industry for a few years. Of course I surfed as much as I could in Australia. The waves and beaches there are pristine and so tranquil. I could retire there! Then in 2008, I moved back to Hawaii. In 2010, I also jumped on the same renewable energy train Craig had caught until the Spring of 2017. We kicked some ass during that time, having sold and developed over 5000 residential solar installations.
We were both working 16 hour days and working our butts off. The pay was good, but our quality of life was being questioned. At the time, my daughter was 8 and my son was 6. I would wake up in the dark and leave to work before they got up and come home when they were asleep. Life couldn't be like this. In 2016, before leaving for work, I happened to sit a little longer with my son. I took a long look at him and noticed his face had changed. He wasn't 3 anymore… he was 6. It surprised me at how fast time went by. I saw that as a sign and the beginning of what was to unwravel in the next few months after that. Things needed to change and I had to gather the courage to do it. Leave a well paying job to seize the most important moments in my life and find a way to do what I loved to do (to pay the bills).
In Spring 2017, I managed to muster up enough courage to submit my resignation. I left my job to pursue something that I was passionate about and loved. It was one of the hardest decisions in my life and I still think about it. Craig had left as well.
I bought a water housing for my camera, Craig started shaping full time again and a few months later we registered "Lost Not Found", a surfboards and apparel brand out of Hawaii.
We needed to do some marketing for our brand and boards on a shoestring budget. So yeah, I bought a water housing for my camera. I didn't know any water photographers. I saved up the cash and did what I had to do. It was for an old camera with only 5 frames per second (fps). It is a dinosaur basically. But it's all I had to work with and that's how we started. Through my journey I came across a surf photography competition by Zak Noyle (one of the world's best surf photographers) who is from Hawaii. I entered it to help me push myself to do something amazing. To physically prepare I started to run, swim (a lot!) and read up on apnea training.
Ten months later, on January 11, 2018 I arrived at Ehukai beach parking lot at 5am. I prepped my gear, watched the waves and suited up. When walked to the beach with my fins and helmet, I froze. "What the heck was I doing," I thought to myself, "are you f*$#ing stupid?!" I sat there for about 45 minutes contemplating life, my family and why I was doing what I was about to do.
I sucked it up and swam out, and of course I got swept all the way to the lifeguard tower and had to swim up current back to Pipe. Anyone reading this is thinking, "you're an idiot," but I knew this is what I had to do.
I stayed out battling the current, massive sets, reef, surfers and jet skis for 5 hours and finally came in before cramping up. I scored some of the most amazing photos and in my mind, I knew I did something special for my own growth. We are always learning something new every day, all we need to do is get out there and push ourselves.
Seeking Truth, Wisdom, and Good Vibes
Our whole narrative on "Lost Not Found" is to lose yourself in the passions that you love and not wanting to be found. It was the result of our journey over the last decade we came to discover. The highest paying jobs might not be where you'll find true happiness for everyone, I know I didn't. It was good to be able to go eat out whenever you wanted or buy the best "stuff", but for me it couldn't buy back time with my family. It didn't make any sense to me to raise a family you couldn't be there to raise yourself. I didn't see any wisdom in that.
Surfing helped me find my path again. I think it always kept me there but I never realized it or took it for granted. It keeps you vivid and reacting to what's right in front of you. You take off on a wave and have to do a bottom turn, you can't plan it out, you just have to do it.
LNF came from our courage to do something about following your passions. We think anyone who has a passion for anything they love can go on the same journey we have. I get up everyday wanting to share that stoke with my family, friends, and even strangers I meet out in the water taking photos of them. LNF is a reminder to myself and anyone who supports us that if they have it in them, they can accomplish anything they set their mind to, and that's the wisdom that I found.
Mahalo nui to all of our friends and family who support us and for taking the time to get to know us.
- Mike & Craig